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The sun giveth and the sun taketh away. Photo: Mpora

The sun giveth and the sun taketh away. Photo: Mpora

The Inertia

A team of researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital has created a drug that produces melanin when rubbed on the skin. It’s not a spray tan, though–it actually gives you a real tan without the sun. When you get a tan, you’re basically cooking a little bit. UV from the sun damages your skin, so your body produces dark melanin, which acts as a natural sunblock. The new drug, however, just needs to be rubbed into the skin to start the melanin-making process. Now you can stay inside all the time playing Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer and watching the WSL webcast!

I absolutely hate lying the sun. One of my least favorite things to do is to bake on a beach, rivulets of sweat mixing with sand, my eyes squeezed tightly shut while my body temperature skyrockets. I don’t care about being tanned, either. Not in the slightest. Many a vacation has been spent with the girlfriend simmering under a burning sun while I roam around uncomfortably, trying desperately to find some form of shade. Give me a fan, an open air room with cool tile floors, a sweaty beer, and a deck of cards. That’s my heaven. The only good thing about the beach are the waves and the cool, cool ocean. Like Jim Carrey said, “sand is overrated. It’s just tiny little rocks.”

Consequently, the only part of me that’s tanned is my head, neck, and arms, while the rest of me looks as though it’s made hairy paper. But if I cared about being tanned, scientists solved my problem: the drug they created tricks your skin into producing melanin without the sun. So far, they’ve tested it on skin samples (where do these samples come from? Are there skin donors roaming around with excess skin?) and mice. Both of which got tanned without UV rays making them all wrinkly and riddled with cancers.

The obvious next step is to market this on the Jersey Shore and to Donald Trump, both of whom seem to prefer an orange hue. One can assume, though, that the orange hue comes from a desire to have a tan. But the team has no interest in replacing spray tans or tanning beds or the Jersey Shore or Donald Trump’s orange hue. They, like the good scientists they are, are more interested in the medical benefits.


“Our real goal is a novel strategy for protecting skin from UV radiation and cancer,” said Dr. David Fisher, one of the team’s researchers, told BBC. “Dark pigment is associated with a lower risk of all forms of skin cancer – that would be really huge.”

Although it’s nowhere near ready for the market, creators of the so-called SIK-Inhibitor are hopeful that in the future, it’ll be added to sunscreens as an extra form of protection. That means the sunscreen would block the UV rays, but you’d still get a tan. And here’s the real magic: it’ll work on redheads. Since the gene that causes red hair screws up regular melanin-production, redheads generally freckle and burn to a crisp the moment they look out a window. The SIK-Inhibitor produces melanin even on the palest of skin, so soon even redheads will be able to know what it’s like to be lightly toasted… and without the toaster.


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